Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(11)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(11)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Vi –”

“I don’t, Sam. If something happens then I’ll talk to Colt. He’s a cop, lives across the street. He’s a good guy, a good cop. It’ll be fine.”

“The dude who had that serial killer after him?”


Sam shook his head. “Christ, he’ll just love it if that ass**le bleeds into his town after that mess went down.”

Sam wasn’t wrong about that either.

“Can we just enjoy your visit and not talk about this shit?” I suggested.

“We can after you answer one question.”

I sighed again then asked, “What?”

“You need money?”

Sometimes it was irritating how well my brother knew me.

I did need money. Things were tight, not to the point where food wasn’t on the table but to the point where it was a constant, nagging worry at the back of my head because I could give my girls what they needed but not a whole helluva lot of what they wanted and that sucked.

“I’m good.”


My voice got soft when I lied, “Yeah, Sam. I’m good.”

“Okay, then you use that two grand I set on your nightstand to make yourself a pretty garden.”

I felt my eyes get wide and my mouth drop open but I didn’t speak.

“And you can’t refuse it,” Sam continued. “It’s from Mel and me and Mel’ll go ballistic, I come back with that money.”

“Sam, I can’t take that.”

“You don’t, I’m up shit’s creek with Mel.”

“Sam –”

He leaned forward again. “How many times you and Tim bail me out, hunh? How many?”

“But –”

“More than two grand’s worth, a f**kuva lot more.”

“I can’t –”

“Payback, babe.”

“Sam –”

His hand came out, hooked me around the neck and pulled me across the space between the kitty corner chairs so my face was in his face.

“Payback,” he whispered.

I pressed my lips together to fight the sting of tears in my eyes. Before Melissa, Sam had been a wild one, always doing stupid shit, always coming to Tim and me to bail him out and we always did. Even though it had been years and we never expected anything in return, Sam would feel that weight pressing on him. It would live with him, right under his skin. He needed to do this, I knew it, so he could work that weight out from under his skin and I needed to let him.

I pulled in breath through my nose, nodded and I watched my brother smile.

* * * * *

The next morning, Joe’s truck was still in his drive but his house was quiet.

The morning after that, the morning Sam left, Joe’s truck was gone.

* * * * *

“Shit, Vi, sorry, I got a callout,” Colt said after he flipped his phone shut and shoved it in his back jeans pocket. He was seated at the barstool next to me at J&J’s Saloon.

I looked down at my mostly finished cranberry juice and vodka. It was my third; Morrie was currently making my fourth. I hadn’t moved from my stool for awhile so I didn’t know the extent of my drunkenness but I figured, since I didn’t drink much, I was closing in on pretty smashed.

“That’s okay,” I told Colt who was my designated driver seeing as I came to the bar with him and Feb after she caught me getting my mail from the mailbox after coming home from work. We’d called our hellos then she’d suggested I go in with her and Colt to J&J’s for a night out.

I’d said yes because it was Friday and on Fridays normal people went out to have a drink, socialize, unwind.

I’d also said yes because Kate was out with Dane and she’d asked for an hour extension on her curfew because there was some party she just had to attend. All the other kids had later curfews and she explained she’d look like a dork if she had to be home by eleven. I’d allowed this because I was a moron. I knew this party wasn’t about kids sedately drinking punch and discussing possible college applications they wished to submit. I just hoped my responsible first born would act responsible. I also hoped her boyfriend, Dane, who seemed more into Kate than she was into him (if that was possible), would take care of my daughter.

I’d also said yes because Keira was at a sleepover which meant Kate and Keira being out, the house would be empty and I’d rather be at J&J’s having a drink sitting by Colt, who was a nice guy (and proved to be a fun guy, in a light-hearted, teasing, big brother kind of way) and not home by myself yet again.

“You want me to drop you home now?” Colt asked.

Morrie slid my drink in front of me and I smiled at him then looked at Colt and, still smiling, shook my head. Colt looked at my drink then at me and he smiled back.

He turned to Morrie. “Can you get Darryl to take Violet home?”

“I’ll get a taxi,” I said quickly because I might have been heading straight toward smashed but it was Friday night and the bar was packed so I knew Morrie couldn’t afford to let his employee Darryl take a trip out to play driver to me.

“That’s cool, Vi, Darryl can take you or I will,” Morrie stated, smiling at me.

Man, he was so nice, they all were.

“Really, I’ll get a taxi,” I smiled back.

“I got her,” a deep, rumbly voice said from behind me.

I twisted on my stool, looked up, up, up and saw, standing behind me, Joe Callahan, his hair longer and more unruly, wearing his black leather jacket, a black t-shirt stretched across his wide chest, faded jeans and black motorcycle boots.

“Yo Cal,” Morrie greeted as I stared at Joe.

“Yo,” Joe greeted back.

“Great, Cal, thanks,” Colt muttered, I looked from Joe to Colt and watched Colt call to the back of the bar, “Feb, baby, got a callout.”

“All right, honey,” she called back. “See you later?”

“Yeah,” Colt replied, grinning at her then he slid off his stool, lifted a hand to squeeze the back of my neck, he nodded to Joe and Morrie then he took off.

Through this I sat there thinking firstly, that Joe freaked me out a bit considering he could come up behind me and I never heard him coming and secondly, that I didn’t want him taking me home.

I put my elbow to the bar, my head in my hand and I aimed my mouth at my straw. Capturing it, I sucked up cranberry juice and vodka and considered this dilemma.

“Beer?” Morrie asked Joe before I came to any conclusions about my dilemma.

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